Random thoughts

What makes you tick?

What tickles your fancy? Floats your boat? What’s your cup of tea?

I mean photographically. What brought you into this into the first place?

The Swiss Alps' ruggedness left me speechless

I was reading my buddy’s Corwin Hiebert’s ebook “Your Creative Mix” and I have to admit it got me thinking more than anything I’ve seen or read lately. I don’t really want to go through the actual ebook (and suggest you check it for yourselves, it’s really worth it), but one of the big eye-openers for me was Corwin’s discussion about “going pro”.

I am sure many of you have asked themselves this question before (do I/should I/I gotta go pro?). It certainly has been THE question at the centre of my life for the last few years. Corwin’s provocative approach to this question really got me thinking, though.

“”How do I go pro?” I’m willing to confess that it’s probably a semantics issue, but I’ve seen this question torment inspired and talented photographers and I feel that it’s a reflection of a dangerous mindset of “not quite having arrived[emphasis added].”…“I’ve never heard a Web designer or a stylist ask that question! They do what they do because they love it and they eventually start charging money for their services—it’s not some giant chasm they have to cross.”  —Corwin Hiebert

What I realized is that I (and possibly some of you) got it completely wrong…It’s never been about going pro when you think about it. (I know this is sounding more and more like a rant but bear with me, I am going somewhere, really). When you dig deep down, it’s not about putting the label “pro photographer” on your business card, it’s not about making a living at it. In fact it’s not about taking pictures for a living.  I got so caught up in this “going pro” thing that I think I was heading towards the very thing I was trying to escape from. You see, I already have a job that pays well and that I don’t like too too much. Got that covered, thank you. So, really, do I want *any* job as a photographer, just so I can say I am making a living as a photographer? Think about it. Is it why you got into it?

So, why am *I* into it? It’s for the love of mountains and nature. It’s for the love of travel. Most importantly, it is for the creative outlet it provides me. Whether it is finding patterns in nature or the curves of an exciting new building, setting up a lighting scheme for a shoot or discovering a new culture, photography is a constant challenge for my senses and my imagination (and I mean the fun kind of challenge). This is what I love, this is what I live for. Nothing gives me anything that comes close to the thrill of photography.

However, in “trying to go pro” at all cost, I have to admit, that the notion of “making a living” started taking precedence over the “having fun” part. I found myself slowly heading towards the path of getting a job that didn’t pay well AND that I didn’t like that much. That wasn’t the plan, was it? That’s what I am thinking at least. If I am going to live the dream I want it to be the right dream.

So for now, I am going to take a deep breath. It means going back to basics, enjoying what I do, having a blast doing it!

How about you, what’s making *you* tick?

The Elusive Moment

In Photography, you hear everyone talking about the “decisive moment”. This term coined by the famous father of photojournalism Henri-Cartier Bresson refers to that “creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. “”The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.”

For all his incredible photography and achievements in the art, Cartier-Bresson himself recognized that you do not just make great photographs, and you certainly don’t make a lot of them. In an interview, he likens the idea to milking a cow and surmises that it takes a lot of cows to make a small amount of cheese…In other words, you’ve got to work at it to get it. For one of those “decisive moments”, how many undecisive ones did he have to go through?

We often only show our best work on our blogs and galleries (though I like to post experiments as well). So I thought that today I would post something that actually wouldn’t normally make the cut. I was having a chat with David DuChemin a few weeks ago, when he mentioned this image I made on my last trip to Morocco, saying how it bugged him that I *just* missed that moment. Yes, I had an excuse, but in the end, he expressed what I knew all along, this is an “almost” image. Had the guy just moved his head forward a couple of inches…when he did so, someone walked in front of him and the moment was gone. No image. gah! The image in the end is not just a good composition or a good “moment”/action/event on their own. Rather it is when that moment and that composition coalesce into one “aha!” moment. I wish I had gotten this one, but there will be other opportunities.

How about you, any “almost” success images you want to show us? Link to them in the comment section, or send them to me and I will add them at the end of this section.

Register for my upcoming Photographic Adventure Tour in Morocco (Oct. 29-Nov. 5, 2011) – Click here for more details.

A sense of scale

In a recent post, I discussed how adding a human element to an urban scene makes us connect with an image in ways that an empty building can’t.  That human element simply takes the image to another level.

While I have resisted doing the same for natural landscapes for the longest time, I have to admit, that I am always struck by the impact a human figure, as small as it may be, has on a landscape image. Not only does it build a stronger connection between the viewer and the image, but it also  adds a sense of scale that is seldom achievable in de-humanized landscape. There was a very good discussion recently that stemmed from the Boston Globe’s Mark Freeney’s critique of photographer QT Luong’s Treasured Lands exhibit (you can see it here). Freeney’s argument was essentially that an “empty” (de-humanized) landscape was sterile, and that it could only come to life if it portrayed the human condition in it. I have to admit that I wasn’t taken with the argument as most landscape photographers go to great lengths to avoid showing the impact of humans on the landscape. And while I still see great value in a pristine natural landscape, I can’t deny that adding a human element can certainly transcend said landscape in ways that I couldn’t foresee initially.

The dunes of Erg Chebbi, that we will be visiting during our upcoming photo tour in Morocco, are one such landscape where nothing can prepare you to the immensity of the place. Plainly put, it’s HUGE! No picture can ever make you feel that sense of utter desolation and loss when completely surrounded by these 400-500′ monsters. Do you think that the man’s silhouette at the top of this dune gives you that sense of scale?

The man and the dune (it's worth checking it larger by clicking on it)

To crop or not to crop?

Oh well, who cares?

If you thought I was going to start another one of those pseudo-religious wars, think again. If YOU want to start one of those, please refrain. Peace be with you. If you care to know, I love cropping. Crop. Crop. Crop and crop away!

Well, no. Not really. I am as much a believer in getting the shot in-camera as the next guy. Only, there is one problem. My camera only does 3×2…and I am a complete sucker for square and pano formats. I could go out there and get a 6×6 or x-pan camera, but frankly, I already own enough camera gear as it is. It gets heavy after a while. So what do I do? Yup, you guessed it: I crop, crop and crop away.

While I have indulged in the occasional 4×5 or 6×7 crops, I really mostly stick to square and pano formats. I wish I could say that all my crops were pre-visualised (and honestly, I can definitely say, that they are for the most part). The fact is, however, sometimes, you look at an image and it just doesn’t work in its original format. You crop away, and miraculously, it springs to life.

What are your favorite formats? What tickles your fancy? I would love to hear your opinions.

The Monster

Always have a plan B (improvised or not).

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It’s funny how you can live in a place for years (8 in my case), yet never explore parts of it, even though they are smack in your face!! Well, I did just that on a recent visit to Montreal and skipped over to le Parc Jean Drapeau as I wanted to catch the sunset. Whether the sun has actually set that day, I couldn’t confirm for sure as it sank behind a massive bank of clouds. One can only assume so given the darkness that soon covered up the place. No sunset, no problem. I had my plan B, which frankly, and I knew (really I did, or at least that’s the official line), was going to be more fun than the aforementioned plan A. You see, there was this cool steel statue standing behind me, and I just knew that once those big spots surrounding it would be turned on, the whole thing would take on a new life of its own. The only problem was, the spots never came on! No lights, no problem! You can always count on street lights for some fill light, you combine that with a sturdy tripod and 30-60″ exposures and you are set. Dusk and articifial lights are truly a match made in heaven…I’ll let you be the judge.

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And this is about 10 minutes later. I just love how a subtle change in light, gives a completely different look.

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